Well folks, it has happened.
Exactly one year and ten days removed from the day the San Antonio Spurs lifted the gender barrier in professional sports by hiring Becky Hammon to their coaching staff making her the first female to ever serve on an NBA coaching staff, a breakthrough of the same magnitude has made it’s way to the football field. Except this time, it happens right here in the Valley of the Sun.
Bruce Arians has made history. No, not in the NFL record books. But for the first time in NFL history, we will now see a woman walking up and down the hash marks of University of Phoenix Stadium–Or any stadium for that matter.
On July 27th, 2015, Jen Welter became what the Cardinals are calling “the first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL,” when she was hired by the team’s head coach, Bruce Arians, to the Cardinals’ coaching staff. While she was not hired as a full-time assistant, Welter was hired as one of seven other training camp coaching interns, meaning that her tenure as a part of the Cardinals will last until just the beginning of the Cardinals’ first preseason game on August 15th. Now don’t let the title mislead you. In a press conference this Tuesday, Bruce Arians stressed that all of his interns are paid, and that being a coaching intern is a step in the right direction in becoming a coach of any kind in the NFL.
However the first step in Welter’s pursuit took place months ago, in April, at the Annual NFL Scouting Combine. Bruce Arians, along with several other NFL head coaches was asked to comment on the possibility of a female entering the coaching ranks of the NFL. Now any of Arians’ players will tell you that Bruce does not sugarcoat anything; He is very deliberate with all of his comments, and he tells everything like it is. And that is exactly what Arians did, in saying that he would be open to the idea of hiring a female coach, as long as she could help the team.
Three months later, and this possibility has become a reality for Bruce Arians. But, all headlines aside, the question still remains: After sifting through what he called “hundreds,” of applications for this same job position, why did Bruce Arians pick Jen Welters? What does she bring to the table that nobody else does?
Well the answer is simple. Fourteen years of professional football experience. Not only is Welter the first female to ever grace the sidelines of a football field, but she is also noted as the first female to play a non-kicking position in men’s professional football. For thirteen seasons, Jen Welter served as a running back for the Dallas Diamonds in a women’s professional football league. After playing professionally for a women’s team, Welter joined the Indoor Football League’s Texas Revolution, becoming the first female to ever play a non-kicking position in men’s professional football. Following the 2014 season, Welter became a part of the Texas Revolution coaching staff. Being that Welter played tailback in her prime, she will be a part of the Cardinals’ inside linebacker personnel throughout training camp, bringing a whole new perspective to the likes of such players as 5-year NFL veteran, Sean Weatherspoon and rookie second round draft pick, Markus Golden.
Regardless of Welter’s gender, her agenda remains the same as any of the other coaches on Bruce Arians’ staff. She is now a part of the team, and she is here to help. Upon introducing Jen at a team press conference, Arians emphasized “One thing I have learned from players is, ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don’t care if you’re the Green Hornet, man, I’ll listen.’ I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her.” Clearly, Bruce Arians thinks that Jen Welter’s football pedigree is enough to help the team, and although her tenure may be over within the month, it is more than likely that this will not be the last time we see a woman on the sidelines of a football field.